‘My mother told me to dare.’ Inspiring stories from high-level African Development Bank women’s summit

Nafissa Hamidou Abdoulaye has been praised far and wide for her ground-breaking work in agriculture, but securing financing has been an uphill battle. That was until now.

The African Development Bank has decided to jump in and support Abdoulaye, who has for the past five years self-financed her animal feed company Salma, which employs 10 people.

Abdoulaye’s story inspired African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina after she spoke at the high-level regional summit of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on April 17, 2019.

The summit was the first regional gathering of the newly formed We-Fi, and was called to discuss how women-owned SMEs can overcome barriers to financing.

The event, co-hosted by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, heard many accounts of how women had struggled to make headway as entrepreneurs.

Abdoulaye spoke about how she had been motivated by her mother, a housewife who had raised her and her four siblings as a single parent.  “She told me to dare, don’t just be a mother in the household. Be a woman who in just a few years will be known,” Abdoulaye said.

In 2014, she founded Salma after noticing the vast quantities amounts of animal feed being imported into her country, Niger. Salma used local ingredients to create her feed.

Since then, Abdoulaye has won plaudits for her venture, including being named one of the Francophonie 35 people under 35 to watch in West Africa.

Patricia Zoundi, the founder of Quick Cash and Canaanland  also shared her story at the We-Fi summit.. Quick Cash is a mobile service that allows people in rural areas to transfer money without an internet connection. Canaanland offers a range of services to rural people, such as training and helping them gain access to markets.

Shortly after the two women spoke, Adesina took to the stage and announced that the Bank would invest in Zandou and Abdoulaye’s businesses.

Adesina said Africa’s economy could only thrive once women were brought on board.

“When women win, Africa wins. Truth be told, women run Africa,” Adesina told delegates.

Other major announcements at the We-Fi Summit included a US $2 million facility for 300 cocoa cooperatives in Cote d’Ivoire, by Mars, Nestle, Hershey and other multinationals, along with USAID and the World Cocoa Foundation. A further 500 associations will also be given access to the formal financing market.

The announcement was made by Ivanka Trump, senior advisor to US President Donald Trump, who had earlier visited a successful cocoa farm run by an association made up women outside Abidjan.

“This was a perfect example of women championing women, women supporting women … This is what happens when women work together, but you need the role models, because, unless you see it, you can’t believe it’s possible,” Trump said.

World Bank president Kristalina Georgieva said her institution had developed innovative tools to help women overcome barriers to financing.

“With gender equality, the wealth of our planet could be $164 trillion greater. So we owe it to everyone to remove the barriers that women face,” she said.

Bandar Hajjar, president of the Islamic Development Bank, said We-Fi was an opportunity for his bank to increase its focus on women-led SMEs under its Business Resilience Assistance for the Value-Adding Enterprises (BRAVE) programme.

“Through the grant provided under We-Fi, the Islamic Development Bank targets the specific barriers women enterprises are facing to enhance their resilience in fragile contexts as potential engines for innovation, employment and sustainable inclusive growth,” Hajjar said.

We-Fi is a US$345 million fund that seeks to promote financing for women. It is a collaborative partnership among 14 governments, eight implementing partners, multilateral development banks, and other public and private sector stakeholders.


Sierra Leone: Kenema women launch governance network

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Women unite: “Let us not relent and let no man intimidate us and tell us that we are not educated”

Women in Kenema have organised themselves into the Kenema Women in Governance Network seeking to empower themselves socially, economically, educationally and, most importantly, politically.

Drawing from the experiences and successes of their sisters in the Kailahun Women in Governance Network, the women said the time is now for them to take the podium in leadership and decision making in Sierra Leone.

“I believe this is the turning point wherein we have decided to confront the challenges preventing us from sitting side by side with the men in matters of politics and governance,” said Mary Wuyata Karimu, who chaired the launching program at Hotel Albertson, Kenema Town, last week.

Mary is the Chairperson of the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) Eastern Region.

“This is the time that the women of Sierra Leone should take the podium in leadership and decision making. Let us not relent and let no man intimidate us and tell us that we are not educated,” she added.

By the launching, Kenema Women in Governance Network is now an affiliate to Kailahun Women In Governance Network, which was formed in 2009. The formation of both women networks was supported by SEND Sierra Leone through funding from Irish Aid under the Women Participation in Governance Project. The Kenema project is specifically called Kenema Women Participation in Governance.

The network draws its membership from all 16 chiefdoms in Kenema District, with the district divided into four zones. Each zone has its executive which reports to the District Executive comprising of seven members. The district executive are elected from the four zones.

“Let me first and foremost, on behalf of our membership, commend the donors and SEND Sierra Leone for the trainings and support throughout the stages of the formation of this network. Our goal is to ensure more women take up political offices; come 2023, we want the numbers to increase remarkably. We know it will not be easy, but we are giving it a good fight,” said Fatmata Dassama, President of the Kenema women network; adding that they have started identifying women for key positions for the next national elections.

The women noted some of the key challenges holding them back, such as reprehensible culture and traditions and what they called pulling-down-syndrome. They also noted that the men in the Eastern region have not been treating women fairly in terms of political empowerment.   

To get the men onboard, Dassama revealed that the network has trained about 80 males in the district to help them convince more men to support the political course of women.

“If we want to quickly achieve our goal we need the support of the men; so let’s do all we can to convince them to get onboard. Let us start with our husbands or partners. Let us stay united and let’s talk positive things about our colleague women and rally behind those we have identified to be leaders in order to build Sierra Leone,” appealed Dassama.

Women constitute more than 51% of the population of Sierra Leone, and the Country Director of SEND Sierra Leone, Joseph Ayamga, said this statistics alone should be a source of strength for all women to pursue their dreams.

“If we are all here to talk about the business of women, it means that they are very much important. Women are the only people that add value to life. We are not launching the network to throw a challenge against the men. Rather, we are encouraging men and women to work together. We should give women their rights and remind them about their responsibilities as well.  All of us have our rights and responsibilities. Women have different skills same as men and that’s why we should work together,” said Ayamga.

He said any community or home where men and women are working together is better than where they are not and that is what they are trying to promote.

“The progress of women should not diminish the progress of men. We have women that are qualified to be chiefs, heads of political parties and councilors but why are we segregating them because of culture and tradition? We are trying to let you know that any society where women are lagging behind, it will never grow,” said Ayamga, adding that the essence of the women network is to fight for their colleagues to prosper in life by advocating for better social services and protection.  

The Resident Minster East, Andrew Fatorma, who also attended the ceremony, said in as much as women want leadership and improvement, they have to change their attitude.

“If you are advocating for men to work closely with you, you also have to support your colleagues when they seek leadership positions. Women in positions now should encourage those that don’t have the opportunity so you will be able to work as a team,” said the Resident Minister.

He continued: “You (women) have to work hard; it is not about coming together but you have to translate this into practical things. You have an assignment to do. It is not about promoting your interest alone. You have to think about helping and assisting those coming after you. I am happy because I have seen faces here that really want to promote the cause of women. We are ready to embrace you but it is your responsibility to push for it to happen.”

Meanwhile, giving the keynote address and formally lauching the network, the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Eastern Region, Jeneba Koroma,said every society is made up of weak and strong people and it’s very important for women to be part of governance.

“For governance to be very effective, men and women should always sit at the same table to take decisions because only then, the needs of everyone, including women, will be best met,” she said, adding that when women are in governance they cater for the family, community and the nation at large.

Following the formation of the women governance network in Kailahun, the district elected 12 women as councilors in the 2012 national elections, the highest in the entire country.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).

Improving quality service delivery in rural communities through policy literacy

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Nurse-In-Charge at the Kpandebu Community Health Center, Lilly E. Moiwo, said pregnant and lactating mothers refused to come to the center and instead rely on ‘peppeh doctas’ (quack nurses) in the community

Quality service delivery is a challenge in rural communities in Sierra Leone as a result of lack of understanding of government policies, especially relating to essential services such as education, health and social protection.

This came out clearly from a skit performed by school pupils, teachers, parents and education authorities on the Free Quality Education Program (FQEP) during a policy literacy session organised by Non-Governmental Organisation SEND Sierra Leone at their Kailahun Town office, Eastern Sierra Leone, last week.

The skit, laced with misconceptions and misinformation on the FQEP, set the stage for frank discussion among community people and public service providers on the three key areas of education, health and social protection. Starting with education, participants lamented the numerous challenges of accessing quality schooling before now and assessed the extent to which the newly introduced FQEP will go to address those challenges in the short, medium and long terms.

“The FQEP is being implemented over a five-year period (2019-2023) and in phases; so not all of these challenges will be addressed immediately,” said Allieu Marah, SEND Sierra Leone SABI Project Officer.

Explaining the FQEP policy, the Deputy Director of Education in Kailahun District, Foday Conteh, provided answers to the frequently asked questions on the program including which children are covered; responsibilities of Government on one hand and the parents/guardians on the other; which schools will benefit from the schooling feeding program and where will the school bus scheme operate.

Participants were shocked to learn that parents/guardians could face penalties of fine or imprisonment if they fail to send their children/wards to school (Education Act 2004).

Furthermore, they were amazed to learn that FQEP covers only public schools (Government owned and government assisted schools). Many of the schools in rural communities are community owned and these are not covered by the FQEP. Education officials are still counting the number of children in these community schools across the country that are missing out on the FQEP.

Nevertheless, Conteh said the Ministry has adopted a set of criteria such schools have to meet before they are approved as public schools. According to the criteria, community schools must have a good structure plus a playground that are big enough to accommodate the pupils; they must have good WASH facilities, and a reasonable trained and qualified number of teachers.

“We have received applications from community schools and many of them will be approved in due course,” said Conteh; adding however that henceforth any NGO or faith based organisation that wishes to establish a school is mandated to seek approval from the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, prior to establishing the school.

In the area of the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) the general complain from the community people is that they are usually asked to pay money before they can be treated or given essential drugs even though such should be free. However, Matron Sando Kamara from the Kailahun Government Hospital insisted that FHCI is free for children under-five years’ old, pregnant women and lactating mothers; and lately People with Disability (PWDs) and Ebola survivors have been added to this primary beneficiary group.

“The only instances they (FCHI beneficiaries) pay money is when the drugs are not readily available in our stores. Sometimes the drugs delay to reach to the hospital; so we write prescriptions and ask them to go and buy them outside from the pharmacies,” explained Matron Kamara.

In Kpandebu, Dama Chiefdom, Kenema District, Nurse-In-Charge at the Kpandebu Community Health Center, Lilly E. Moiwo, reported that most of the pregnant and lactating mothers refused to come to the center and instead rely on ‘peppeh doctas’ (quack nurses) in the community.

“For example, children Under-5 are only brought to the center when they convulse,” she said.

However, Moiwo disclosed that unlike before there are no more special clinic days for pregnant women.

“Now they can come any day; every day is clinic day,” she said.

On Social Protection, especially relating to the rights and privileges of PWDs, participants learned that every person with disability has a right to free education in tertiary institutions accredited by the Tertiary Education Commission and approved by the Ministry responsible for education. Moreover, a person with disability shall not be denied admission to or expelled from an educational institution by reason only of his/her disability.

PWDs also have right to access public facilities, to employment and equal rights at the job place. Furthermore, they should be involved in all committees in their communities- from the School Management Committee to Ward Development Committee and Ward Education Committee.

Apart from helping community people understand their rights and responsibilities, the policy literacy sessions also guide communities to channel their concerns relating to essential service delivery through the appropriate authorities at ward, chiefdom, district and national level.

“These policy literacy sessions are implemented under the SABI Project funded by UKaid through Christian Aid. SABI doesn’t approve the community schools for the FQEP or provide the essential drugs for the FHCI; what it does is to enable communities to understand their rights and responsibilities and take action by channeling their concerns through the right bodies or heads,” said Marrah.

Operational in every district in Sierra Leone, the project seeks to strengthen community-led accountability, increasing awareness of, and demand for, the delivery of basic services – including health, education, social protection, water and energy.

The policy literacy sessions are organized by SEND Sierra Leone in 30 wards in Kailahun, Kenema, Kono, Western Urban and Western Rural districts.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association (DEJA-SL)

Older biologic age linked to elevated breast cancer risk

NIH scientists use epigenetics to help predict disease development.

If a woman’s biologic age is older than her chronologic age, she has an increased risk of developing breast cancer. NIEHS

Biologic age, a DNA-based estimate of a person’s age, is associated with future development of breast cancer, according to scientists at the National Institutes of Health.

Biologic age was determined by measuring DNA methylation, a chemical modification to DNA that is part of the normal aging process. The study showed for every five years a woman’s biologic age was older than her chronologic or actual age, known as age acceleration, she had a 15 percent increase in her chance of developing breast cancer. The study was published online Feb. 22 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Scientists from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH, speculate that biologic age may be tied to environmental exposures. If so, it may be a useful indicator of disease risk. They used three different measures, called epigenetic clocks, to estimate biologic age. These clocks measure methylation found at specific locations in DNA. Researchers use these clocks to estimate biologic age, which can then be compared to chronologic age.

The researchers used DNA from blood samples provided by women enrolled in the NIEHS-led Sister Study, a group of more than 50,000 women in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The study was specifically designed to identify environmental and genetic risk factors for breast cancer. The research team measured methylation in a subset of 2,764 women, all of whom were cancer-free at the time of blood collection.

“We found that if your biologic age is older than your chronologic age, your breast cancer risk is increased. The converse was also true. If your biologic age is younger than your chronologic age, you may have decreased risk of developing breast cancer,” said corresponding author Jack Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology Group. “However, we don’t yet know how exposures and lifestyle factors may affect biologic age or whether this process can be reversed.”

Lead author Jacob Kresovich, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Taylor group, had read studies that used epigenetic clocks to predict age-related mortality. Since age is the leading risk factor for breast cancer, he hypothesized that age acceleration may be associated with higher breast cancer risk.

“If you look at a group of people who are all the same age, some may be perfectly healthy while others are not,” Kresovich said. “That variability in health may be better captured by biologic age than chronologic age.”

Kresovich suggests that using DNA methylation to measure biologic age may help scientists better understand who is at risk for developing cancer and other age-related diseases. This research is an example of epigenetics, a field that studies how biochemical processes turn individual genes on or off, without affecting the DNA sequence.

The Taylor group plans to continue using epigenetic data, along with information on genetics, environment, and lifestyle to better understand how these factors interact and contribute to disease risks.

This press release describes a basic research finding. Basic research increases our understanding of human behavior and biology, which is foundational to advancing new and better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Science is an unpredictable and incremental process— each research advance builds on past discoveries, often in unexpected ways. Most clinical advances would not be possible without the knowledge of fundamental basic research.


The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

Long periods of sedentary behavior may increase cardiovascular risk in older women

A new study has found that the longer older women sit or lay down during the course of a day—and the longer the individual periods of uninterrupted sitting—the greater their risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

Physically active women have significantly decreased risk of heart disease. Photo credit:
Medical Xpress

The study noted that reducing their sedentary time by just an hour a day appears to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 12 percent—and for heart disease alone, by a dramatic 26 percent, the research found. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.  

“This study provides further strong evidence of a link between sedentary behavior, like sitting and laying down, which uses very little energy, and cardiovascular disease,” said David Goff, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, NHLBI. “Sedentary behaviors and inactivity are major risk factors for heart disease, and this research also shows that it is never too late, or too early, to move more and improve your heart health.”

In this five-year prospective study, researchers looked at more than 5,000 women ages 63 to 97 and measured both the total time they sat or laid down each day and the duration of discrete sedentary periods. The results, published today in the journal Circulation, are significant.   

“Higher amounts of sedentary time and longer sedentary bouts were directly associated with cardiovascular disease,” said John Bellettiere, Ph.D., research fellow of cardiovascular disease epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego, and lead author of the study. “Importantly, the association showed up regardless of a woman’s overall health, physical function, and other cardiovascular risk factors, including whether they also were engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity.”

Of the estimated 85.6 million American adults having at least one type of cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, 43.7 million of them are 60 or older. In fact, 67.9 percent of women between 60 and 79 years old, have cardiovascular disease; and heart disease is the leading cause of death among women 65 and older.

The findings, Bellettiere said, could have implications for what health officials communicate to older women about staying heart healthy. Getting up and moving, even if for just a few minutes more throughout the day, he noted, might help reduce their already-high rates of heart disease.

“Encouraging less sedentary time and shorter sedentary bouts in older women could have large public health benefits,” Bellettiere said.

The research involved an ethnically diverse group of 5,638 women, nearly half of whom were over age 80, enrolled between 2012 and 2014. None had a history of myocardial infarction or stroke. The women were part of the NHLBI-funded Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH)—a sub cohort of the Women’s Health Initiative. 

At the start of the study, participants wore hip-mounted accelerometers that measured their movement 24 hours a day for seven consecutive days. Previous studies have largely relied on self-reporting questionnaires; the accelerometers, however, provided researchers more accurate measures of sedentary time overall, as well as the duration of individual bouts of sedentary time. The latter was important because it allowed, for the first time, the study of whether sitting for long uninterrupted periods throughout the day was contributing to higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers then followed the participants for almost five years, tracking cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks and strokes. They found that on average, an additional hour of total sedentary time was associated with a 12 percent higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, and when that sitting time was made up of long uninterrupted sedentary sessions, the risk was 52 percent higher than when it was accumulated in short, regularly interrupted bouts of sedentary time.

Yet, just as the risk for heart disease can increase with more sitting and longer sedentary bouts, it can be reduced by getting up and moving, even if only a little, and by doing it often throughout the day, the researchers found.

“Reductions of sedentary time do not need to happen all at once,” said Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., Chair of the Division of Epidemiology and Director of the Women’s Health Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, who led the OPACH study. “I recommend to all women who, like me, are over 60, to make a conscious effort to interrupt our sitting by getting up and moving around as often as we can.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): the United States medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. 

Inexpensive supplement for women increases infant birth size

Findings from NIH-funded study could combat undernutrition in poor areas of the world.

For women in resource-poor settings, taking a certain daily nutritional supplement before conception or in early pregnancy may provide enough of a boost to improve growth of the fetus, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

A participant in the trial preparing the supplement.Nancy Krebs University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO.

The inexpensive supplement consists of dried skimmed milk, soybean and peanut extract blended into a peanut butter-like consistency. Weighing less than an ounce, the supplement is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals and provides protein and fatty acids often lacking in the women’s diets.

The study was conducted by researchers in the Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research. The study also received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers distributed the supplement to women in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, India and Pakistan. Roughly 7,300 women were randomized to either receive the supplement three months before conception or during the first trimester (third) of pregnancy or receive no supplement other than what they may have received from local health services.

Women in the supplement groups were 31 percent less likely to have an infant that was of shorter length (stunted) at birth and 22 percent less likely to have an infant that was small for gestational age. According to the authors, these findings show that it’s possible in poor areas to inexpensively improve maternal nutrition before and in the early stages of pregnancy.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) conducts and supports research in the United States and throughout the world on fetal, infant and child development; maternal, child and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. 

Isabel dos Santos and the Economic Empowerment of African Women

She often encourages young women to leverage the world’s increased reliance on technology and artificial intelligence, which she refers to as “digitalization”

By Haley Thompson

At a United Nations debate in New York, Isabel dos Santos, who is currently the richest woman in Africa (https://bit.ly/2Gxf9aw), spoke of the economic empowerment of African women as a key to transforming society. This and many of her other hopeful and encouraging messages have inspired many citizens in African countries, mainly young women, to pursue their ambitions in business.

Dos Santos believes that some of the most promising and successful businesspeople in the world have been African because of the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit, however, has been weighed down by the stigmatization of women in the workplace. This has robbed the economy of valuable innovators and has barred women from achieving their ambitions. But by ensuring that young women can access the same education, job opportunities, and potential for growth as men, dos Santos believes that she can change this attitude and instill a national confidence in women.

This type of thinking falls in line with her more general philosophy of reform: “First the seed, then the future.” This dictum seems to urge against immediate change and, instead, encourages slow and steady growth. The seeds that Isabel dos Santos thinks ought to be planted are also tied up in the economic freedom of women – by creating jobs, providing training, and breaking sexist stigmas, she believes that women can experience increased financial stability while giving their home countries more influence in the international economy.

Dos Santos’ Vision of an Entrepreneurial Africa

Isabel Dos Santos (https://bit.ly/2POZHGd) has spent a lot of time planting these seeds in Africa, focusing her efforts in her home country of Angola where she meets with young people and speaks with them about the power of entrepreneurship. Sometimes, she visits them in small, personable rooms at universities and other institutions, other times in much larger ones during her speeches and debates. Most tellingly, she refers to famous African entrepreneurs as a “great family” and invites everyone with the motivation to work hard and come join them.

She often encourages young women to leverage the world’s increased reliance on technology and artificial intelligence, which she refers to as “digitalization”. She believes working toward innovations in technology is key to increasing Africa’s presence in the international economy while flooding the continent with unique employment opportunities. With just a computer and internet connection, unemployed or underpaid citizens can find more work, sometimes with the higher wages that are more commonplace in developed countries, to support their families and stimulate their local economies.

During a conversation with students at the University of Warwick interested in developing Africa, dos Santos tells a young woman who is eager to accomplish her ambitions “now” that she has to be patient and have not just a goal but a string of subgoals to reach it. She goes on to encourages the student to involve herself as deeply as she can in the decision processes that influence that goal, and also to understand that sometimes it’s important to just focus on school, other times on a career or starting a business. This type of advice for strategic hesitance can be found in many of her speeches.

Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s long-time former president. Much of her wealth came from her investments and her previous position as the chairwoman of an oil company owned by the state called Sonangol. Dos Santos considers herself an independent businesswoman (https://bit.ly/2rLNGrp) and investor and has become Africa’s first females billionaire. Forbes ranks her as the 9thwealthiest billionaire in Africa for 2018.

A Beacon of Hope in a Male-Dominated Market

For young businesswomen in various African countries, her success story has been a beacon of hope. But dos Santos has told various reporters that her rise to riches was marred by the sexism she had to endure in a male-dominated African business world. She has no shortage of stories concerning prejudice and discrimination based on her gender, such as during business meetings where the people she’s negotiating with would look to her male assistant, advisor, or lawyer for validation though she already stated her offer. She is also frequently asked what business her husband is in when her wealth is made clear.

Despite her tribulations in the business world (https://on.ft.com/2EvASNr), Isabel dos Santos has maintained a charitable and hopeful perspective on life and takes on many projects geared toward improving small communities and local economies. One of these projects was in Humpata, in the province of Huila, where dos Santos helped establish a strawberry field, “planting the seed” to empower citizens. This project gave 120 women a place to work and a new income. On her website, dos Santos says:

“Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves. When they thrive, women invest their income in the family, health, and education. I value this as a sense of duty, commitment, and dedication. The impact that women create around them is powerful and transformative.”

She calls on other African entrepreneurs to give back to their countries by investing in similar projects. Though they seem small-scale, she believes that with enough support, this type of philanthropic work can create a value chain large enough to impact the national economy. As a result, smaller communities will have more prosperous citizens and influence. Should those new entrepreneurs be African women, then dos Santos hopes that their success will help chip away at the stigma that women are less competent than men.

This is all part of one of Isabel dos Santos’ larger goals to increase the prosperity of African countries as a whole. She plans to accomplish this by working from the ground up, focusing on the individual, such as the promising young men and woman of various African countries. By empowering them, she is, in turn, empowering their communities. This creates value within towns that have historically not had the chance to prosper, and by strengthening local economies, the national economy itself is bolstered.

“This is the true transformation of a country,” she says. It starts with a little hope and promise, with planting the “seeds”, and then, through the hard work of a community’s individuals, a brighter future can be earned.”